The New Guy in the Glass: Bronco Mendenhall?

The apologists are swarming to the defense of UVA football coach Bronco Mendenhall, who has come under fire for, among other things, telling the Board of Visitors last week that only 27 of his 81 players are what he considers to be “ACC caliber.”

Call it tough love all you want. I call it low-grade revisionism.

Especially when you take into account his assertion that the program got back to the postseason for the first time in six years because of the 17 freshmen that he had to play last year.

I’m not making this up, not taking this out of context.

Those 17 are among his 27 ACC-caliber players, ostensibly. By the fall, Mendenhall told the BOV, he anticipates being in the mid-40s in terms of ACC-caliber players, then in the mid-60s by the fall of 2019, then finally at 85 by 2020.

Go ahead and roast me on this, but the guy is trying to get away with saying that every single one of his recruits from his first four full classes is going to get his program to 85 ACC-caliber players.

If you don’t know that’s utter bleepin’ nonsense at first glance, I can’t help you.

This on top of how he magnanimously went out of his way, in his rendering, to honor the scholarship commitments to the 2016 recruiting class, though two-thirds of those kids are no longer in the program.

And his vainglorious telling of his first meeting with the team that he inherited, with players who were despondent, not able to make eye contact, many on the verge of quitting.

See what he’s doing here? He’s selling the BOV on how he had nothing to work with when he got here, and he’s building literally from the ground up.

But it’s funny how it’s only his guys, in his mind, who get the designation “ACC caliber.” Rivals ranked Mendenhall’s first two recruiting classes, in 2017 and 2018, 57th and 69th nationally, respectively.

That awful class that he inherited from London, two-thirds of which scattered in the wind, was ranked 61st nationally.

Mike London, famously, couldn’t coach on game days, but dude could recruit: his first full class, in 2011, was ranked 25th by Rivals, the first of three straight Top 30 classes that he brought in, before dipping to 41st and 43rd in 2014 and 2015.

Mendenhall, it should be pointed out here, doesn’t have a gangbusters track record on the recruiting trail. His last five full classes at BYU ranked 62nd, 62nd, 70th, 70th and 66th, which, since I’m pointing things out here, coincided with a steady decline in the won-loss ledger.

Mendenhall’s Cougars posted five double-digit win seasons in a six-year stretch from 2006-2011, before going 8-5, 8-5, 8-5 and 9-4 in his final four years, against increasingly weaker schedules (ranked 58th nationally in 2014 and 45th nationally in 2015, when London’s teams were playing the 38th- and 36th-toughest schedules those years).

This may be why you’ve read that Mendenhall slipped up and admitted publicly that he wants to play the weakest non-conference schedule possible. He’s not making the progress on the recruiting trail that UVA needs to be able to compete in the ACC, despite his self-serving forecast regarding the build of ACC-caliber talent.

This is where the apologists are getting it all wrong. They make it out to be the case that Mendenhall is making his kids earn their stripes, making them work harder to meet performance objectives.

Mendenhall wasn’t selling his kids on the value of hard work. He was selling the BOV on what a great job he is doing going 8-17 in two years and taking a team to a bowl game that he even admitted to his bosses they weren’t adequately prepared to play.

But there we go again. Listen to the audio: to Mendenhall, the players lost their focus after the Georgia Tech win that got the team to bowl-eligibility, and then didn’t buckle down to prepare for the bowl game.

The kids aren’t talented enough, don’t work hard enough, but don’t worry, I’ve got a plan.

I never thought I’d encounter another coach who could approach the level of arrogance that we saw out of Al Groh, but, sorry, Al, The Guy in the Glass has met his match.

Column by Chris Graham

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